Physician researcher Larry Kwak's passion? Moving discoveries to clinic

May 1, 2015 | by City of Hope

Dr. Larry Kwak Renowned physician researcher Larry Kwak takes the helm of City of Hope's new Toni Stephenson Lymphoma Center.

Known for his ability to bring together, and lead, effective research teams, world-renowned translational research scientist and physician Larry W. Kwak, M.D., Ph.D., has joined City of Hope in a key leadership role within the institution's new Hematologic Malignancies and Stem Cell Transplantation Institute.

As director of the Toni Stephenson Lymphoma Center, Kwak will shape the next generation of research and treatments for all types of lymphoma. Kwak also will serve as the inaugural associate director for developmental therapeutics and translational research for the comprehensive cancer center, and he is the first holder of the title of Dr. Michael Friedman Professor for Translational Medicine.

In other words, Kwak will integrate basic scientific discoveries into clinical use.

“What makes me excited to come to work every morning — my passion — is moving lab discoveries to clinic,” he said. “One of my key roles will be to help our faculty develop their ideas and bring them to first-in-human clinical trials."


“The culture of bench-to-bedside research here is remarkable,” he added. “City of Hope has a unique ability to advance homegrown discoveries to first-in-human clinical trials.”

Kwak has brought to fruition a number of first-in-human clinical trials of novel therapeutics, such as next-generation cancer immunotherapies. In 2010, he was named to TIME magazine’s TIME100 as one of the world’s 100 most influential people for his 20-year commitment to the science of cancer immunotherapy.

As he builds his research program at our institution, Kwak aims to improve on the vaccine-based immunotherapy for which he is renowned. “I’m also interested in collaborating to combine vaccine therapy with other exciting new methods such as the CAR T cell immunotherapy that City of Hope is advancing,” he said.

Kwak is a recognized expert in the clinical management of patients with low-grade lymphomas. He joins City of Hope from MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, where he was chair of the lymphoma and myeloma department. While there, he garnered extensive support for his research. This included two Specialized Programs of Research Excellence grants — in lymphoma and multiple myeloma — from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and a Specialized Center of Research Program project grant awarded by The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Prior to his role at MD Anderson, Kwak served as head of the Vaccine Biology Section, Experimental Transplantation and Immunology Branch, at the NCI for 12 years, and his laboratory was credited with the bench-to-clinic development of a therapeutic cancer vaccine for B-cell malignancies.

“Dr. Kwak’s remarkable expertise in translational research and hematologic malignancies make him a uniquely perfect fit for City of Hope,” said Steven T. Rosen, M.D., provost and chief scientific officer, director of Beckman Research Institute of City of Hope and our comprehensive cancer center, and Irell & Manella Cancer Center Director's Distinguished Chair. “His ability to guide research breakthroughs from the lab to the clinic will help us break new ground in the treatment of a variety of cancers, including lymphoma and other blood and bone marrow diseases, and we’re extremely pleased to have him on board.”


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